Lorie Cassidy Cooper of Ken’s Barbershop

Lorie and Ken cutting hair.

Me: How long have you lived in York?

LCC: I’ve been in York since 1988, so about 30 years. I moved here from Rock Hill, just right up the road. When I first moved here, I lived way out in the country for a long time.

Me: So you live in town now?

LCC: No, I still live in the country. I have lived in town before though. I was a gypsy for awhile.

Me: You just lived all over? All over town?

LCC: Yes. And Taiwan and um…

Me: Oh, OK. Not just around York! Other places too.

Laughter…..

LCC: Yeah, other places too. And I lived in a camper for three years. I had it right in front of Black’s Peaches. I was the only thing in this big ole field. I rented a little spot from John Black. I loved livin’ in a camper.

A Black’s Farm peach

Me: When you said gypsy and camper I was thinking you were one of those people that traveled around, but no.

LCC: No. I lived in a field. I loved it!

Me: You said Taiwan. Now why did you live over there?

LCC: My son moved there. He’s been there about ten years. He went to college. That was the initial reason, and he’s never come back. He is now on TV and movies and stuff like that.

Me: So he graduated from York Comp, right?

LCC: He graduated from York, went to Winthrop his first year, and did an exchange program to Taiwan and he stayed there. He’s made it. He’s made it big! He’s been home twice.

Me: How many times have you been there?

LCC: Twice. The first time I stayed for a year, and the last time was last September, and I went for two weeks.

Me: How long have you worked at Ken’s Barber?

Ken: 2004.

LCC: 15 years? Close enough.

Me: How many barbers have worked here? Just you and Ken and Ken’s daddy, Len?

Ken: Well, when she went to Taiwan, we had another one, but yeah. Just us.

Me: Did you plan to be a barber?

LCC: No. It was really strange. I was cuttin’ hair since I was little. My daddy would have me cut his hair since I was five years old. I would stand on a stool and cut my daddy’s hair, and then he would go get it fixed. I didn’t realize at that time he was showin’ me my career.

Me: So you’ve been doing this your whole life essentially.

LCC: Yeah, but I didn’t make money off of it until my Momma passed away, and that’s when I went to school. Took care of her while she was sick. After she passed away, it just kind of fell in my lap. I needed to do something. I didn’t know what to do with myself because I had been so stretched for so long, and I ran into these people and they knew somebody that needed to hire a barber and they did on the job training. So I worked for free to pay for my on the job training.

Me: And then you came here.

LCC: Yeah. Well, first I went to Blackwood Brothers, and I did an internship and then I came here after a year.

After that, umm, I ended up getting a divorce, and all kinds of stuff. I’ve got the best job in the world. If people knew how good this job is, I couldn’t have hand-picked a better job for me.

Me: What’s the best part?

LCC: The people. Getting to know them.

Me: I bet you get all kinds of stories in here.

LCC: A mentally handicapped man from York, people would pick on him. But people didn’t know what he would do. So this other man, I was cutting his hair, and that customer said, “Hey ____, did you know there’s a warrant out for your arrest?” Well, _____ picked up this chair, and I ducked cause I knew what he was fixin’ to do, and I said, “Don’t!” He set the chair back down, but that man wasn’t ready for that!

He would also get mad when it was snowing. He’d get mad. He used to live downtown, and he would walk here, but he lives with his brother now. That’s why you don’t see him around. We love him.

Talking…..

LCC: I was the first woman to work at this barber shop. It’s been here since the depression, and I’m the first woman.

Me: I don’t doubt it. You don’t hear about many woman barbers.

LCC: No. You don’t. And it’s so funny, when I started working here. They all pick on me. I’ve been the butt of every joke for fifteen years. Not everybody could do this job.

I don’t mind. I love it. I’ve got a lot of useless knowledge. Like Herman told me how to deliver a cow. Now when am I ever going to do that?

Me: I bet you hear a lot of gossip. What’s the best gossip you’ve heard??

Ken: We had a doctor once, would come in and tell us everything. He used names! We were like, Nooo!!!

Customer: I don’t want to hear that!

Ken: That’s what we told him.

LCC: It’s women that gossip. With men, it’s just BS. They’re talkin’ smack or it’s political. And I don’t know anything about politics, so I don’t say anything.

Me: Do you have any clients get in arguments? About politics or stuff like that?

LCC: Oh yes!! Ken!!

Ken: I had two old men fightin’ over me! They both wanted me.

LCC: Yeah! They both wanted Ken to cut their hair, and they’re both trying to get in the chair at the same time.

Laughter…

LCC: And then one of them got in a fight with me, and then later he’d say, “Hey!” He was trying to get on my good side in case we went to court.

LCC: But yes, people get heated about politics, especially around election time. Now Ken and I, we try to stay out of it.

Me: But Ken’s daddy didn’t. He’d talk about politics because that happened the first time we ever came in here. He was here, and he was telling all kinds of stuff. That’s what I was telling Ken, that my boys were excited and wanted to go back to the barber. They learned all kinds of things they had never heard before!

LCC: Oh I’m sure! Lenny will tell you, “I was a democrat until I learned to read.” But Ken and I, we stay out of it.

Me: Do you have a poignant or kindhearted story? (Ken pipes in, and I tell him to hush. It’s Lorie’s turn to tell a story. He smiles.)

LCC: There are kids that come in here… (Ken – Oh, yes.) I’m very mothering. There’s kids that come in here, and they don’t have anything. This one fellow that me and Ken got too close to, he had a whole lot of problems. He’d been in foster care, he’d been adopted, all kind of problems. Now, we’re only hearing his side of the story. We don’t know, but he was pitiful, and he was making a lot of bad choices, and me and Ken we’d try to give him advice. He was seventeen at the time he run away. But he ended up, they sent him off, and I don’t know where he is now.

…..

Kids get to me. I have another kid that comes in here. He’ll say, “I found something at the thrift store, and it’s two dollars, and I want it so bad!” And of course, I give him two dollars. The first time I saw him at the thrift store, he’s walking around, and he’s as skinny as a rail, and he had on high waters, socks, shoes that didn’t fit him, and he was carrying around these cleats. It was dead of summer, and he had on a jersey with football pads, and he had them cleats. The store clerk asked me what was with him, and I said he looked like a kid and that I’d go talk to him. Well he was just a kid, and he wasn’t on drugs or anything, he was just mentally unstable, and he wanted those cleats. His hair was all over the place. So, of course, I got them for him, and I got him something to eat, and I told the woman I’m going to cut his hair and we’ll be back to eat. He wasn’t this big around. So I cut his hair and he went back and ate, and of course, he’s come back after that. We have a lot of sad stories like that.

But I try to help people. Especially the children.

We kept on talking, but the best way to hear barbershop stories is to visit yourself. You can find Lorie and Ken at Ken’s Barber most days, and I can tell you, it’s worth the visit.

Lorie’s Chair



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